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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 11 December 2020

Dear colleagues and students,

Key points

  • Term ends today but please keep checking your email for further updates, particularly concerning arrangements for the beginning of the Spring Term
  • COVID-19 cases on our campuses remain very low
  • Details of the support and services available to students remaining on our campuses over the winter break are now available
  • Our HALO testing facility will be closed after 18 December. If you need a test for international travel after this date you can arrange to collect one in advance
  • Students who have travelled away from the University for the winter break are advised by government not to return in January until their in-person teaching is scheduled to resume.
  • Timetables for next term are released today
  • Tests will be available to all students in January. Two tests should be taken and negative results obtained before returning to in-person teaching sessions, study spaces or shared social spaces
  • Additional hardship support will be available for students in the Spring Term
  • Please think carefully about your personal safety if you are on campus over the next few weeks, and continue to be mindful of your wellbeing as we enter the holiday period

Full message

Today is the last day of the Autumn Term and I would like to thank you all for your contribution to everything that we have done together as a University community to meet the challenges we have faced this year. Most students have now travelled away from our campuses and our attention turns to supporting those who will be with us over the winter break, and to our preparations for the start of the Spring Term in January.

There is some important information in today’s message, and I will also write to you next week with further updates, so please do stay in touch with your email.

Cases on our campuses remain very low. The Devon County Council (DCC) dashboard, which includes data up to 8 December, shows that there were 607 cases in the preceding seven days for Devon and 130 cases in the same period for Cornwall. Exeter has recorded 126 of the cases in Devon over the last week. We know from working with our Public Health England (PHE) colleagues that around 5% of those cases are attributable to the University. There remain very few cases linked to our Cornwall campus.

Our daily update of new positive cases in the University community can be found on our COVID-19 statistics webpage. This should be viewed alongside the official published data.

Staying at University over the winter break

Each year a number of students stay with us over the winter break and this year will be no exception. Most of our facilities and services will be available as normal until Wednesday 23 December, and will re-open on Monday 4 January. Details of how to access services and support between those dates can be found on our winter break web pages. You can also find out about Christmas meals and the ‘Get Connected’ and ‘Together Wherever’ campaigns being run by the Student’s Guild and Student’s Union. 

Christmas Digital Hampers are available for those who are staying in University accommodation over the winter break. You don’t have to do anything as our accommodation team will pass your details to colleagues in order that you can receive this. Please ensure you have informed us that you are staying via the accommodation survey which was recently shared. If you have not received the survey, please contact the Accommodation Team.

COVID-19 testing over the winter break

Our testing system has supported us throughout this year, with more than 7,000 students and colleagues having been tested, delivering rapid test results and taking pressure from our local NHS testing teams in Devon and Cornwall. Now HALO testing is making it possible for colleagues and students to travel internationally to visit loved ones over the winter break.

Our HALO testing facilities will close on 18 December, re-opening on 3 January. If you know you will need to take a test for travel purposes between these dates you can arrange to ‘pick-up’ a test from the Streatham Test Centre before 18 December. Colleagues in Cornwall can arrange to 'pick up' a test from the Penryn Test Centre before 18 December. The test can be used two days before you travel and can be sent directly to the HALO labs for analysis.

Full details on how to access testing during the winter break, including for those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, are on our winter break web pages:

Preparing for Spring Term

Our examination period begins on 4 January and this year all our exams will be conducted online. We expect that most students who leave term-time accommodation for the winter break will complete their exams away from campus. If you do not have suitable space or the necessary facilities and equipment to complete your exams away from the University, you can return to term-time accommodation for the exams period.

Teaching begins on 11 January for all students. For many students, and following government advice, this will initially be online-only, consisting of live online teaching, seminars and tutorials, as per your timetable, alongside learning through engagement with the anytime-anyplace resources on ELE. The move of a proportion of the live teaching from online to in-person will be staggered between 11 January and the week beginning 1 February. By the week beginning 1 February we will have reintroduced live in-person teaching alongside live online teaching and digitally-supported learning on all degree programmes.

Students who have travelled away for the winter break are advised by government not to return to their term-time accommodation until their in-person teaching is scheduled to resume, but must also leave enough time between arriving back at University and attending on-campus teaching sessions for two COVID-19 tests, separated by three days.

  • Those degree programmes with placement or practical elements which cannot be delivered online will resume in-person teaching first, with most resuming from the week beginning 11 January. However, students should refer to their programme for individual arrangements
  • New postgraduate taught (PGT) students will also begin their in-person teaching from the week beginning 11 January. In some cases they will join modules with PGT students who started in October, in which case, those October PGT starters will also return to on-campus teaching in the week beginning 11 January.
  • Other final year undergraduate students and returning postgraduate taught students will resume in-person teaching in the week beginning 25 January
  • All other Undergraduate students will resume in-person teaching in the week beginning 1 February
  • Postgraduate research students can resume their research from 4 January, and details of the facilities available during the winter break will be shared next week

Please pay very close attention to your timetable before making your plans to travel, which should also take account of the guidance on testing.

The timetable for teaching in Term 2 will be released to students by the end of today. For those who will resume on-campus teaching in Week 1 (commencing 11 January), there will be an ‘on-campus’ location displayed against some of your teaching activity for that week.  This will be the case for most students who have some requirement for teaching to take place in specialist facilities on campus (eg labs and performance spaces). 

For the remainder of students, who will return to on-campus teaching later in the term due to the government’s ‘staggered start’, MyTimetable will show a message against each activity saying, for example “online until 25/01/2021” or “online until 01/02/2021”. As each staggered online period draws to a close a location will be added to your teaching for the following week. This will occur on the preceding Friday at 18.30 GMT. All other activity without a location attached will take place online for all of the scheduled teaching weeks.

For the Spring Term we are planning to run on-campus teaching for groups of up to a new limit of 40, following successful trials of this in both Exeter and Cornwall at the end of the Autumn Term.  We will liaise with our Public Health colleagues in the New Year to confirm this, based on the latest local and national position.

Testing in January

We are offering tests to all students in January and February 2021, using our existing test centres on the Streatham and Penryn campuses. We strongly recommend that all students book tests as soon as you arrive in your term-time accommodation and before starting any in-person teaching, or using study or social spaces on our campuses.

Bookings will open next week and more detail on this will be shared via email and on the COVID-19 web pages.

Testing is vital for us to begin the Spring Term safely and to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks. We advise you to allow enough time between arriving in your term-time accommodation and starting your in-person teaching sessions, or using study or social spaces on campus, to get two tests to protect you, those around you and our communities.

Additional hardship support for students in the Spring Term

We know that some students, in returning to our campuses later than originally planned, may suffer an additional financial burden.  In partnership with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union we have therefore committed to doubling the support available through the ‘Success for All’ Hardship Fund by adding a further £500,000 to the fund.  Should you need it on your return next year for the start of on-campus teaching, please reach out for support and apply to the fund if you are suffering financial hardship.

Safety on our campuses

Our campuses will be quieter from today, and with the daylight hours at their shortest it is important that we all think carefully about our personal safety. There are some simple measures you can take if you are on our campuses over the winter break, or at any time.

To help to keep our community safe this year we have upgraded the lighting along most of the walking routes in and around our Exeter campuses and have established ‘safer walking routes’ with enhanced CCTV coverage.

The SafeZone app is available to all students and staff allowing you to communicate directly with the security teams if you have any safety, security or emergency medical concerns.

If you are working on the Penryn campus alone then you may wish to sign in and out with the Security team at the Welcome Building. Those on Exeter campuses are welcome to contact Estate patrol to advise that they are on campus.

Our security teams will be on duty 24 hours a day throughout the winter break, to monitor, answer and respond to any concerns, and will continue to patrol all areas in and around our campuses. They can be contacted directly on 01392 723999 (Exeter) or 01326 254444 (Penryn).

Your wellbeing

As we reach the end of term and prepare for the winter break, I hope many of you have a restful time to look forward to. There is much for us to reflect upon, and please remember that we have a range of services and resources available to you if you feel you need additional wellbeing or mental health support. Many of these are collected in our COVID-19 Wellbeing web page.

This week we have also asked members of University staff to complete the confidential, anonymous Colleague Health and Wellbeing Survey.  This is easy to do and will help us to further improve our support.

I will write again next week. In the meantime, thank you once again for everything you have all done to keep our community safe and, for those who are beginning some time away, I wish you safe travels and a peaceful break.

Best wishes



Mike Shore-Nye
Registrar and Secretary